Rich Warren | Magnepan speakers looking at going small | Science-technology

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Wendell Diller reminds me of why I began writing about audio 44 years ago. Diller, the marketing manager for Magnepan speakers, exudes the now rare passion, enthusiasm and expertise, once common in the speaker business. Diller, although eligible for social security, continues touring the country preaching the gospel of Magnepan.

Magnepan, manufactured in Minnesota, makes a unique speaker that uses a thin film to move air to create sound. To do this properly, especially in the bass region, requires a very large panel. Its dipole design radiates sound from the front and rear, enhancing a realistic ambience. While Magnepan designed a few smaller models for home theater use, knowing the user could hide a separate subwoofer, most of its models make a statement in sound and substance. They stand six feet tall and half as wide, albeit only a few inches deep. Thus, the member of the family who may not be an audio fanatic might find these otherwise innocuous speakers intrusive.

Few would deny Magnepan speakers’ amazing sound quality. This thin film flat panel technology enables awesomely accurate reproduction. It delivers a naturalness and depth only replicated by more expensive and usually even larger competition. Magnepan speakers sparkle in transient response, the ability to reproduce exceedingly brief bursts of sound. An orchestral triangle, the finger tip on the violin pizzicato, the initial touch of the stick on the drum head, all often lost in the mush of lesser speakers come through with a clean distinct realism.

Magnepan discovered that many of its fans were downsizing to apartments from spacious houses. With space now at a premium, setting up Magnepans in this reduced space caused some serious conversations between couples, not to mention new converts that never enjoyed the luxury of space.

Recently, Geoff Poor, the audiophile who runs Glen Poor’s Audio Video, invited me to his store in the Old Farms Shops to hear Magnepan’s proposed solution to this problem. As usual, Diller exhibited well-founded musical rapture as he played several demo recordings. Since Magnepan’s most famous speakers are labeled 30.7, he dubbed these experimental models “30.7 for Condos.” Not only do the 30.7 Condos use innovative variations of Magnepan’s signature dipole flat panel technology, but also sophisticated electronic digital signal processing (DSP). This combination results in a speaker about a quarter of the size of the full-size Magnepans with much of the same sound quality. I marveled how they retained the depth of the orchestral stage, yet did not demand the majority of the showroom floor.

To avoid misunderstanding, the 30.7 Condos will never be considered miniature or even “compact” speakers. I doubt you’ll install them in the bedroom. But when compared with full-size Magnepans or the competition, they economize on space rather than sound. The best analogy would be buying a Prius with Tesla-like performance.

Poor also showed me a pair of very small Tannoy speakers that wowed me, but that’s a different column. They would sound great in any room in the house.

Diller offered no price on the 30.7 Condos, since they were experimental. Demand and manufacturing efficiencies would influence the cost. Because Magnepan doesn’t mass manufacture or mass market, it sells through a very limited number of dealers, of which Poor is the only one in Illinois.

We received several reader emails concerning our last column about Mediacom and area fiber broadband providers. We’ll share those in two weeks, but let’s just say that Mediacom lacks a local fan club. We’ll also make some suggestions for rural broadband for those still relying on two tin cans and a string.

Mediacom phoned me with an apology after the last column ran. Its representative admitted the company improperly handled the situation. Meanwhile, Mediacom gave me $7.72 credit for 51 hours of outage, which did not begin to cover the time I spent on the phone with them and the inconvenience.

You’ll notice that this column now has a new email address: [email protected].

Rich Warren, who lives in the Champaign area, is a longtime reviewer of consumer electronics. Email him at [email protected].

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